By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE defending champions San Miguel Beermen drew first blood in their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) best-of-three quarterfinal series with the TNT KaTropa, taking Game One, 121-110, yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum coming from behind.
Down by nearly two dozen at one point, the Beermen collectively showed grit and determination in coming back and pulling the rug from under the KaTropa.
TNT got off to a blistering start, racing to a 10-0 lead in the first minute and a half led by Jericho Cruz.
It will hold a 22-10 advantage by the six-minute mark before building a 22-point separation, 40-18, as the quarter wound up.
When the smoked cleared, the KaTropa held a 40-21 lead.
The Beermen played better to start the second quarter, slashing their deficit to as much as 13 points, 50-37, with over four minutes left in the period.
But the KaTropa would eventually nip the San Miguel run, going on a 10-4 run in the next two minutes to extend their lead to 60-41.
The Beermen though finished strong with a 7-2 run to cut down TNT’s lead to just 14 points, 62-48, by the halftime break.
San Miguel tried to build on its strong finish in the opening half to start the third frame, with Marcio Lassiter leading the charge.
But TNT kept staving off its opponent with its own fiery counters.
By the halfway of the quarter, the KaTropa continued to hold sway, 78-63.
San Miguel, however, was not to be deterred by it.
It sustained its pressure on the neck of TNT as the quarter progressed, tying the count at 86-all with six seconds to go.
But Terrence Romeo would give the lead back to TNT with a basket as the period expired, 88-86.
The start of the fourth period saw both teams having it nip-and-tuck.
The score was at 106-all with 5:11 to go before the Beermen went on a 13-0 run after to build a 119-106 crevice with 1:15 to go.
It was a run that proved to be too telling as TNT could not recover from it.
Renaldo Balkman led the way for San Miguel with 36 points while Roger Pogoy led TNT with 17.
“We had a big scare. We thought we could not recover from the big deficit we had early on. But our players showed the experience to handle it and thankfully we won,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria after game.
Game Two of the best-of-three quarterfinal series between TNT and San Miguel is on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, games today will see the two other quarterfinal pairings — Rain or Shine Elasto Painters against GlobalPort Batang Pier and Alaska Aces versus Magnolia Hotshots Pambasang Manok.
Rain or Shine collides with GlobalPort at 4:30 p.m. while Alaska takes on Magnolia at 7 p.m. in the double-header set at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The top seeds Elasto Painters and Aces carry twice-to-beat advantages over their opponents in their respective pairings.